Shillong, April 5: Civil society members today called for better vigilance to effectively use the Right to Information (RTI) Act to increase accountability and transparency in governance, as corruption and under utilisation of funds retard the growth and development.
Today was also the concluding day of the basin development programme organised by the Meghalaya government and the theme was related to the nitty-gritties of governance.
Delivering his address, former Cotton College principal Dilip K. Barua attributed the alarming increase of poverty in the Northeast to the under-utilisation and mobilisation of funds and not to monetary constraints. The poverty rate in the region has increased by 3.5 per cent. “While in the rest of the country the poverty rate decreased by 7.8 per cent in 2005-06 and 2008-09, poverty in the Northeast has increased which is a matter of great concern,” Barua said at Yojana Bhavan here.
Stating that corruption was the root cause of under-development, he said, “Corruption has been morally accepted, and the comptroller and auditor-general (CAG) reports indicate that there was a culture of illegalities and double-talk.” Barua also suggested that whenever CAG demands answers, it should be made mandatory for the government departments to tender a reply.
“Through such a mechanism, we can address loopholes in governance,” he added. Later, while delivering the plenary address, Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma urged the citizens to maintain vigilance as it would lead to an increase in the level of accountability and transparency in governance.
“We need a strong, vigilant society to create deterrence. If citizens are alert, transparency and accountability will increase,” Sangma said.
Stating that the RTI Act was the most powerful weapon bestowed on the people, he stressed the need to educate citizens to effectively utilise the law.
Sangma said, through the Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Programme, the government intends to make people “partners” and not merely “beneficiaries” to share the responsibilities equally.
He also said the government was working on a social auditing legislation, to empower the people to assess the social impact of the development programmes. He stressed the need to utilise technology and to ensure proper results through the delivery mechanism.
Speaking on the role of citizens in strengthening the anti-corruption framework, Anupama Jha, member of Transparency International, said India ranked 95th among 183 countries under the prefix of extreme corruption.
Jha said an engagement between the government and the civil society was crucial to ensure that corruption does not lead to a failure of governance.
While referring to Anna Hazare’s movement, she said such movements are strong enough to invoke the government to implement rules based on public interest.